The Need-to-Know for Betting on NBA Action
The NBA is out in front of all other US-based sports leagues supporting legalized sports betting and ensuring a plan for the integrity of the game. And we predict that betting on NBA games will become available in more states (currently allowed only in Nevada) in the coming years. Regardless of whether you’re in Nevada now or planning for the future, here’s the basics of betting on an NBA game.
What You Can Bet On
As we’ve said in previous posts, you can bet on just about anything you want in Vegas. If you want to wager some cash, oddsmakers have a way for you to do so. We’re assuming if you’ve come to this point, though, that you want to stick to the basics. We’ll outline here the typical bets on an NBA game and how to place them so you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Betting on the Spread
Quick recap: a spread is a point penalty that oddsmakers apply to the favorite team. If you bet on the favored team you take their final score and subtract the spread to calculate your betting score. Why? Because betting on a spread isn’t a simple bet on who will win the game. Rather, it’s betting on whether a team will exceed expectations.
For example: the Golden State Warriors vs. the Houston Rockets. The spread for this NBA playoff game is Rockets -2. We read this spread as, “The Rockets are a two point favorite.” In order to win this bet on the Rockets, the team needs to not only win, but to win by more than two points.
If the final score of the game is Warriors: 101 and Rockets: 104, then you’re in luck! You take the Rockets final score of 104 and subtract two points to get a final betting score of 102. That still beats the Warriors’ 101 points.
However, if the final score is Warriors: 101 and Rockets: 103, then you have a push. You neither win nor lose your bet. Unfortunately, if the Rockets only win by 1 (or if they lose), you lose your bet.
Betting on the Total
For each game in the NBA, the oddsmakers will set a total. This is the total score of both teams’ final score.
The oddsmakers’ total for this Warriors vs. Rockets game is 224. You can bet whether the actual game total will be over or under the oddsmakers’ set total. If the final score is Warriors: 101 and Rockets: 104, then the game total is 206. In this case, you’d win if you had taken the under.
Remember that Americans love high scoring games. And, we love to bet that games will be high scoring. Knowing this, oddsmakers set the total slightly higher than they think it will actually end up. This higher total discourages too many bets on the over.
Betting on Who’s Going to Win
If you don’t want to deal with spreads and totals in the betting world, you can place a moneyline bet on who will win the game. With a moneyline bet, you don’t have to calculate a betting score. The actual score of the game is all you need to know: who won?
For a moneyline bet, bettors need to consider the vig (or the odds) set by the sportsbook.
If the odds are set at -110, we would read that bet as “in order to win $100, you have to bet $110.”
The more a team favored a team is, the more money a bettor will have to risk to bet on that team. This is how oddsmakers allows bettors to place bets on the favorite in a sporting event. They apply a steeper vig. If the favorite ever does lose, the bettor is going to pay a heavy fee or penalty.
For the Warriors vs. Rockets game, the vig is Rockets -115. This means that, “in order to win $100, you have to bet $115.” This implies a fairly even matchup.
Other Types of Bets
If watching and betting on NBA games doesn’t feel like your thing, you can still have fun with a proposition “prop” bet.
A proposition bet is a defined outcome bet such as yes or no, up or down, over or under, heads or tails, etc.
If you want to get in on the betting action, but really don’t like basketball, you can bet on the game’s coin toss or whether or not the game will go into overtime. (If you really don’t like sports we assume you’ll be betting on it not going into overtime!)
How to Place a Bet
Place a Straight Bet on the Spread
Back to our example, if the spread reads: Rockets -2, you would read that as: “it’s a two point spread,” or “Rockets are a three point favorite.” As a bettor, you select one side to bet on.
You write or say the spread based on the side you are betting. If you take Rockets -2 this means you are accepting a two point penalty at the end of the game; you believe the Rockets will win the game against the the Warriors by more than two points.
To take that bet you would write or say “I bet $X on the Rockets -2” If you do not think the Rockets will win OR you don’t think they’ll win by more than two points, you would write or say, “I bet $X on the Warriors +2.”
Place a Straight Bet on the Total
Place a Moneyline Bet
If the line is Rockets -2 224 and the odds are -115, you know that in order to win $100 you have to bet $115. Thus, if you want to bet on the Rockets to win, you simply write or say, “Rockets to win.”
Note: the odds (-115 in this example) are a ratio. You do not have to put down the full $115. Instead you could bet $11.50 and win $10.
Like we said above, there are plenty of other types of bets and betting scenarios, but this will get you through a basic visit to a sportsbook.
Other Things to Know
The NBA was the first professional sports league in the United States to propose a formal outline for how legal sports betting should work in the US. It’ll be interesting to watch how the league navigates this new frontier!
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